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Cloud-precipitation-radiation-dynamics interaction in global climate models: A...

Li, J.-L. F., W.-L. Lee, D. E. Waliser, J. D. Neelin, J. P. Stachnik, and T. Lee (2014), Cloud-precipitation-radiation-dynamics interaction in global climate models: A snow and radiation interaction sensitivity experiment, J. Geophys. Res., 119, 3809-3824, doi:10.1002/2013JD021038.

Conventional global climate models (GCMs) often consider radiation interactions only with small-particle/suspended cloud mass, ignoring large-particle/falling and convective core cloud mass. We characterize the radiation and atmospheric circulation impacts of frozen precipitating hydrometeors (i.e., snow), using the National Center for Atmospheric Research coupled GCM, by conducting sensitivity experiments that turn off the radiation interaction with snow. The changes associated with the exclusion of precipitating hydrometeors exhibit a number differences consistent with biases in CMIP3 and CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 and Phase 5), including more outgoing longwave flux at the top of atmosphere and downward shortwave flux at the surface in the heavily precipitating regions. Neglecting the radiation interaction of snow increases the net radiative cooling near the cloud top with the resulting increased instability triggering more convection in the heavily precipitating regions of the tropics. In addition, the increased differential vertical heating leads to a weakening of the low-level mean flow and an apparent low-level eastward advection from the warm pool resulting in moisture convergence south of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and north of the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ). This westerly bias, with effective warm and moist air transport, might be a contributing factor in the model’s northeastward overextension of the SPCZ and the concomitant changes in sea surface temperatures, upward motion, and precipitation. Broader dynamical impacts include a stronger local meridional overturning circulation over the middle and east Pacific and commensurate changes in low and upper level winds, large-scale ascending motion, with a notable similarity to the systematic bias in this region in CMIP5 upper level zonal winds.

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